The 1933 George C. Miller Set: An Ultra-Scarce Diamond in the Rough

Mile High Card Company (MHCC) to offer the #2 Current and All-Time Finest PSA Registry Set in exclusive August Auction

1933 George C. Miller Set #2 All-Time Finest on PSA Set Registry

In the years following World War I and into the Great Depression, the business practice of offering baseball cards as an added incentive for choosing a product over a competitor virtually died out with struggling companies looking for any way to cut costs. But in the early 1930s, public optimism over FDR’s “New Deal” and the popularity of Babe Ruth and the New York Yankees led to a revival of the baseball card market. Several gum and candy companies, primarily from the Boston area, attempted to capitalize by producing baseball card sets and offering cards with a purchase, resurrecting the tradition that so dominated the late 19th and early 20th Century. While Goudey, National Chicle (Diamond Stars), DeLong and U. S. Caramel are considered the premier collections of their time, the most enigmatic and elusive of all is the mysterious George C. Miller collection, designated R300 in the American Card Catalog. Mile High Card Company is proud to offer one of the finest complete George C. Miller sets in existence, which will be featured in our exclusive August auction.

33gcmgehringerBecause of extremely limited distribution, little is known about the 32-card set other than it features artistic renderings of actual photographs with a presentation similar to Diamond Stars cards and can easily be mistaken by collectors unfamiliar with the Miller collection. The portraits on the George C. Miller cards have a less refined appearance compared to Diamond Stars cards and are identifiable by the backdrop, a striped blue and red sky pattern, and no player names on the front. The reverse is unique, offering the players’ vital information, 1932 and career statistics, a checklist of the entire set, and details to redeem the set for a prize. Two players are represented from each of the 16 major league teams, with Jimmy Foxx, Dizzy Dean and Lefty Grove leading a group of stars and Hall of Famers. It is unknown as to why the Yankees are represented by Red Ruffing and Bill Dickey instead of Ruth and Gehrig; perhaps the two Yankee legends’ request for compensation was too high. Two different reverses were produced: Type I has larger, brighter print with the names of Foxx and Klein spelled incorrectly, revised to the correct spelling on the Type II reverse. As with other companies that offered a prize for the redemption of a complete set, one “chase-card” was extremely short-printed to increase sales from patrons determined to assemble a complete set. Just like Goudey’s 1933 Napoleon Lajoie and U. S. Caramel’s Charles Lindstrom and William McKinley cards, the George C. Miller card of Paul “Ivy” Andrews ranks as one of the most formidable acquisitions in card collecting. So difficult to obtain, PSA doesn’t even consider it part of the set, viewing it as a “bonus card” on the PSA Set Registry. The cards were offered in wax wrappers touting “National Ball Game Toffee” and “American Ball Game Toffee”, the themed wrappers giving collectors a better opportunity to acquire the players of their choice and more accurately target the goal of assembling a complete set. Less than 5 wrappers of each are known to exist and an American League specimen recently sold at auction for over $5,000.

33gcmfoxxSeveral facts contribute to the extreme rarity of the George C. Miller collection. The Miller Candy Co. was much smaller than other companies that issued sets and the cards were only available in the Greater Boston area. Also, the cards were marketed for children, not known for their ability to take great care of … well, much of anything, and a complete set was redeemable for a ball, glove, or ticket to a big league game. The cards that were sent in had the bottom edge cut off or had holes punched in them and were returned to the sender along with their prize, assuring that the cards could not be sent again. Quite often, the children would then discard the damaged pasteboards having already reached their goal of acquiring the prize. Even if a forward-thinking collector managed to sidestep those pitfalls, staining from the toffee candy was a common occurrence and lessened the chance of retaining high-grade specimens right from the start. As a result, less than 3% of all George C. Miller cards submitted to PSA have graded above PSA 6.

33gcmdeanSo just how rare are George C. Miller cards? The answer is … very! Even as early as the 1950s, George C. Miller cards were rarely encountered and considered as scarce as many obscure issues from the late 1800s. The DeLong set, also from 1933, is considered difficult, yet the 649 George C. Miller submissions to PSA is just 26% of the total number of DeLongs that PSA has graded. Each of the four Babe Ruth cards in the 1933 Goudey set has a higher submission rate than the entire George C. Miller set. In fact, the most highly submitted card from the set (Charlie Gehringer – 29) pales in comparison to the number of 1933 Goudey Napoleon Lajoie cards that PSA has evaluated (81), an example that routinely sells for tens of thousands of dollars.

The set, to be featured in August, is a complete 32-card collection and includes the extraordinarily rare Paul “Ivy” Andrews card. At a set rating of 5.532, this collection ranks as the #2 Current and All-Time Finest set. The top ranked collection, with a set rating of 6.2, sold for just over $246,000 at auction a few years back, an indicator as to the extreme rarity and exalted status of the offered collection. Hall of Famers Earl Averill (PSA 4.5, one of 3 with none higher) and Frank Frisch (PSA 5, one of 3 with none higher) are at the top of the PSA grading scale for all specimens extant. MHCC has had the opportunity to offer pricier sets in the past, but this George C. Miller collection may very well be the most impressive assemblage we’ve ever offered for its extreme difficulty to complete.

The Greatest Season in Sports History!

Many self-proclaimed experts have had this debate before, which usually results in a heated discussion if any form of alcohol becomes involved. But the issue always conjures up an entertaining point-counterpoint that sports enthusiasts can’t help but engage in; What was the single greatest performance by any athlete in the four major sports (baseball, football, basketball, hockey) over the course of a full season? Let’s preface the discussion with the notion that “greatest performance” need not be driven by record-breaking statistics since each of the games have changed over time. In this scenario, “greatest performance” is directed by the level of dominance the athlete displayed over his contemporaries during a particular season. We’ve done historical studies, crunched the numbers, ran performance metrics through NASA supercomputers at Cal Tech (no, not really), and here are the 3 finalists:

BABE RUTH – 1921
GAMES AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SLG% AVG.
152 540 177 204 44 16 59 168 17 145 .846 .378

Babe Ruth YankeesI know what you’re thinking …. Are you crazy!?! What about 1927? A home run record that stood for 34 years until beaten by Roger Maris (*) and the most legendary team ever! All true, but keep in mind we’re focusing on the player, not the team, and the criteria is dominance, not records. True, in 1927 Ruth hit 60 home runs, more than any other TEAM in the American League. But Gehrig wasn’t far behind at 47, and in virtually every other category, Ruth’s numbers were not only better in 1921, they were far and away superior to the rest of the league. Second to Babe’s 59 homers in 1921 was a tie between Bob Meusel and Ken Williams with just 24. Babe’s 1921 season also included runaway crowns in On Base Percentage (.512 to .452 – Ty Cobb), Slugging Percentage (.846 to .606 – Harry Heilmann), Runs Scored (177 to 132 – Jack Tobin), Total Bases (457 to 365 – Heilmann), Runs Batted In (168 to 139 – Heilmann), and Bases on Balls (145 to 103 – Lu Blue). Ruth ranked #3 in the American League in Batting Average, #6 in Hits, #2 in Doubles, #4 in Triples, and even #8 in Stolen Bases. He even pitched in two games that season, winning both. And all before he had Lou Gehrig batting behind him in the lineup! His 1921 “Wins Over Replacement” of 12.6 also edges out his 1927 rating of 12.4, confirming that the 1921 season for “The Babe” was one of the greatest performances ever!

WILT CHAMBERLAIN – 1961
GAMES MPG FG% RPG APG PTS PPG
80 48.5 .506 25.7 2.4 4,029 50.4

Wilt ChamberlainKnown for his great passing ability in the latter stages of his career, Wilt Chamberlain’s early years were an all-out scoring assault on the NBA record book, obliterating career marks on an annual basis. His 1961-1962 statistics are ridiculous and read as a collection of virtually unmatchable accomplishments. Putting up over 50 points per game on an average of nearly 40 shots taken, Chamberlain bested second place scorer Walt Bellamy 50.4 to 31.6 and outrebounded Bill Russell 25.7 to 23.6 while playing virtually every minute of every game, including several double and triple overtime games. Chamberlain owns four of the top five point-scoring performances in NBA history, his 4,029 point ’61 season more than 400 points higher than the next best total, which was “The Big Dipper’s” 1962 season, and almost 1,000 points higher than the only other player in NBA history to eclipse the 3,000 point mark, Michael Jordan.

WAYNE GRETZKY – 1983
GAMES GOALS ASSISTS POINTS +/- S%
74 87 118 205 78 26.9

Wayne GretzkyJust like “Wilt the Stilt” in basketball, “The Great One” tallied unprecedented statistics on a yearly basis. While Wayne Gretzky owns the top five performances in NHL history and any of them could be touted for the top spot, his 1983-1984 season stands as the most dominant. Though not his personal best statistically due to missing six games, Gretzky distanced himself for titles in Goals (87 to 56 – Michel Goulet), Assists (118 to 86 – Paul Coffey) and Total Points (205 to 126 – Coffey) while leading the league in even strength goals, power play goals, shorthanded goals, plus/minus, and shooting percentage … but he was only second in the NHL in shots taken. Gretzky averaged an unbelievable 2.77 points per game, a full point per game over teammate Jari Kurri, in second place at 1.77 points per game, while leading Edmonton to its first of four Stanley Cup Championships in a five year span.

So who’s it gonna be? Which of our three finalists can claim the title of greatest individual season in sports history? Clearly a case can be made for any one of these icons, each of which posted performances that are nothing short of incredible. But with all things considered, we’ve concluded that the most dominant seasonal performance in the history of professional sports goes to … Babe Ruth, 1921!

We Won’t Be Beat!

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First off, the staff at Mile High Card Company would like to offer our sincere thanks for helping us deliver another wildly successful auction, once again re-writing the record book for prices realized on several items. We are working diligently to get items shipped to winning bidders and payments to our valued consignors as quickly as possible while diving right back in with our April Extra Innings Auction, which went live on Monday, April 14th and will conclude on Wednesday, April 23rd.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve solicited feedback from current and potential consignors in an effort to make MHCC your action house of choice and have received some very constructive reactions. As a result, we’ve made some changes that allow you, the consignor, to pick the program that best suits your needs!

The Choice is Yours

Whether you’re a dealer that needs some up-front cash or a collector that prefers a stronger bottom line, Mile High Card Company stands ready to accommodate! We’re now offering three different consignment plans specifically tailored toward the preferences of those that make our company successful. MHCC is already the established leader in prices realized, but now we’re striving to offer the best consignor deal in the business! When you consign to a Mile High Card Company auction, you can choose which deal works best for you:

1) Consignor Cash Back Rewards

Tired of paying a consignment fee? How about if we pay you instead? Under this program, our consignment fee starts at 0% and only gets better from there! For consignments valued above $2,500 up to $7,500, you get the full sale price before the BP plus an extra 1%. For consignments up to $15,000, you get an extra 2%. Up to $30,000, it’s an extra 3%. Up to $50,000 is an extra 4% and for consignments above $50,000 it’s an extra 5%. If you choose this program, we’ll evaluate the approximate value of your consignment and provide the corresponding rate, or more precisely, the fee we will be paying you for the privilege of offering your prized collectibles. Once that rate is determined, you’re locked in at that number, regardless of the actual result. You get everything plus a little extra, which could amount to hundreds if not thousands of dollars on top of it!

2) Cash Advances

Perhaps you have an item that you know would reach its maximum potential in an MHCC auction but time is of the essence and you need some quick cash. No problem, MHCC is ready to offer you a generous cash advance! It’s basically an interest-free loan against the future sale of your consignment at up to 40% of the value. This frees you up to take care of your pressing financial concerns without sacrificing the opportunity to get the absolute best prices. Don’t miss out on the next big deal because you’ve got your funds tied up in the last one!

3) Consignor Loyalty

The Consignor Loyalty Program is MHCC’s version of “frequent flyer miles” with points accruing from each auction based on the dollar value of the consignments. Point totals can easily be tracked on your “My Account” page at the MHCC website and are redeemable for gift cards for such places as Ruth’s Chris, Best Buy, Apple and ITunes. You could even use it toward a PSA or VCP membership, or just let it accumulate and then get yourself an IPod Touch, an IPad, a Rolex watch, a cruise to Alaska or the Caribbean, or even a BMW 7-series sedan! It’s our way of rewarding you for rewarding us. All consigners that don’t request a specific option will automatically qualify for the Consignor Loyalty Program.

In addition to choosing which of the three options is best for you, we’ve streamlined the consignment process to make it as simple as possible. Essentially all you need to do is pack and ship and we’ll take care of the rest. For larger consignments, MHCC will pay the shipping with our FedEx account or even come pick up the items in person! We’ll email you a consignment contract that you can digitally sign and email back to us with just a few simple clicks of a mouse. As if our industry leading catalog, record breaking prices and unsurpassed customer service weren’t incentive enough to consign to an MHCC auction, our consignor-friendly rewards programs are just further proof that when it comes to consigning your fine items for auction, Mile High Card Company will meet or beat anyone!

Play Ball!

As we speed through March and quickly approach the month of April, sports enthusiasts all across this great nation look forward to the unofficial national holiday of baseball season’s “Opening Day.” Regardless of what the calendar or some Pennsylvania groundhog might declare, baseball fans generally regard Opening Day as the first “official” day of Spring, providing a sense of hope and rebirth while casting aside the disappointment of the previous season to start anew. Every team begins with a clean slate, posting a record of 0-0 with an equal opportunity of hoisting that coveted Commissioner’s Trophy in October.

The First Pitch

John-F-Kennedy-baseballBeginning with William Howard Taft throwing the ceremonial first pitch on Opening Day in 1910, America’s Commander In Chief and its national pastime have become an unshakable partnership. Eleven Presidents since Taft have marked the official opening of baseball season with varying results. In 1940, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a seasoned veteran at throwing the first pitch, provided a moment of comedy when his pitch sailed wildly off target and smashed the camera of Washington Post photographer Irving Schlossenberg. Ten years later, President Harry S. Truman wowed the stadium crowd by displaying his ambidextrous abilities and throwing two first pitches, one with each hand. In 1962, JFK threw the ceremonial pitch to open the new District of Columbia Stadium, renamed Robert F. Kennedy Stadium in 1969 after his brother’s assassination. With the exodus of the Washington Senators to Texas, President Richard Nixon traveled to his home state of California in 1973 to deliver the pitch at Anaheim Stadium, becoming the first President to open a new season outside the nation’s capital. In ’84, Ronald Reagan delivered a strike and then watched the game from the dugout, the first President ever to do so. And in 1993, President Clinton became the first to leave the security of the Secret Service and take the mound to throw his pitch.

Moments In History

Jackie2006-05-21-aaronOpening Day has had its share of historic moments. In 1901, the Detroit Tigers opened the season by rallying from a 13-4 deficit to defeat the Milwaukee Brewers 14-13. In 1923, Yankee Stadium opened its doors with a 4-1 victory over the Red Sox behind a third-inning Babe Ruth homer, starting the legend of “The House That Ruth Built.” In 1940, Bob Feller opened the new season by tossing a no-hitter against the White Sox; he would lead the league in wins, ERA, complete games and strikeouts that year. Of course there’s 1947, when Jackie Robinson trotted to first base at Ebbets field and broke baseball’s long-standing color barrier. And in 1974, Hank Aaron stepped to the plate in Cincinnati and delivered a first-inning round tripper, his 714th career dinger, tying him with Babe Ruth for career home runs.

Off To A Fast Start

walterjohnsonWhile George Bell, Tuffy Rhodes, and Dmitri Young all share the title of smashing three home runs in the season opener, several notable ballplayers have a track record of excellence in the season’s premier contest. Ted Williams had a lifetime .449 batting average in fourteen opening contests with at least one hit in every game. Frank Robinson and Ken Griffey Jr. have hit eight Opening Day round-trippers with Willie Mays and Eddie Mathews right behind at seven. Jimmy Key holds a perfect 7-0 record on the mound in season openers with Greg Maddux at 6-0. But perhaps the best performer on Opening Day is the great Walter Johnson, who hurled nine shutouts in fourteen career starts.

Whichever team you root for you can celebrate that on this day, your team is tied for first place. So sit back, relax, and take in another great baseball season. And if you’re suddenly feeling a little under the weather, you might want to take the day off and rest. Studies have shown that a little fresh air, a hot dog and a few beers can do wonders!

Extended bidding, the 15-minute rule and a large pot of coffee: The perfect auction night trifecta!

It’s almost show time as our Spring auction is up for preview on Monday, March 24th and goes live on Tuesday the 25th, concluding Thursday April 10th. For those of you who are participating in your first Mile High auction or perhaps haven’t been active in a while, let’s go over some of the procedures and strategies that will help you find success as a winning bidder.

Extended bidding

1952 Topps #311 Mickey Mantle SGC 86 NM 7.5+From Tuesday March 25th through Thursday April 10th at 9PM EST, anyone who is registered with us can place a bid on any item, either through our website or by calling us at (303) 840-2784. If you are not registered to bid but choose to participate and would like to be registered, that can also be done through the website or by calling right up to the final day of the auction. But at 9PM EST on April 10th, the auction doesn’t end; in fact it’s just the beginning! That’s when we go into “extended bidding.” If an item doesn’t open or has just one bidder, the auction for that item is finished and will no longer accept bids. All other items stay open for bidding but only to collectors that had placed a bid on that specific item prior to extended bidding. So for example, if an item has bids from four different people when extended bidding starts, only those four people can contend for that item until the auction concludes. To avoid being shut out, the correct strategy would be to place at least a representative bid on anything you might be even remotely interested in before extended bidding commences, making you eligible to continue bidding on that item. If the price moves higher than you expected, you can simply stop bidding. But if the price seems right to you and you hadn’t bid previously, you can’t get in at that point. By placing representative bids, it gives you all the options.

The 15-minute rule

1915 Cracker Jack #37 Grover Alexander PSA 8 NM/MTOften misunderstood by collectors, the 15-minute rule simply states that if there are no bids placed for 15-minutes ON ANY ITEM IN THE AUCTION, the auction ends and the high bidders on each item at that time have won. To be perfectly clear, because this is usually where the misunderstanding arises, the auction for a specific item does not end if it hasn’t had a bid for 15 minutes. Bidding for that item, and all items, ends if no bid has been placed on any of the 1,791 lots for 15 minutes. People often call and ask, “I’m high bidder on a lot and no one else is bidding on it, why haven’t I been declared the winner?” The answer is because the lots don’t close one at a time; the whole auction closes at once.

 

 

A large pot of coffee?

As you can imagine, going 15 consecutive minutes without any of the 1,791 lots receiving a bid will only happen in the wee hours of Thursday night, or more precisely, early Friday morning. And while that can make for an extremely long night for the bidder, believe me, it’s even longer for us! On a typical auction night, the MHCC crew puts in a 20-hour day as we will be here to answer phones as long as the auction is still live. Obviously we can’t predict when that 15-minute stretch that closes the auction will happen, but I can tell you that we’ve never gone home earlier than 3AM EST on an auction this size. The exception to the 15-minute rule is that we reserve the right to close the auction if bidding slows to a trickle (a bid every 8-10 minutes or so) before the dawn of a new day forces the auction to continue throughout Friday. We intend to send out an e-mail giving fair warning when we are approaching this point.

Bidding Strategy

As stated earlier, the best advice for success is to target anything you have even the slightest interest in and place an opening bid, making you eligible but not obligated to continue into extended bidding on closing night. Some people place their opening bids and don’t give it a second thought until the final day; others remain more active and battle for top position as they get outbid, sending a message to potential competitors that they intend to win. Over the course of the auction, you’ll receive e-mail updates of your status or when you’ve been outbid on an item, if we have your e-mail address on file. On closing night, some people go to bed once extended bidding commences and set their alarm to wake up in the early morning, hoping to snipe their desired items from bidders who have already called it a night. To avoid losing out on an item, many people place a “top-all” or “up to” bid. A “top-all” is a bid of the maximum you are willing to pay for the item. By placing this type of bid, you will be the high bidder at the lowest amount that puts you on top, but if someone else places a bid that is lower or matches your maximum, your bid is automatically increased to the next lowest winning bid and they will receive an outbid notice. If they top your maximum bid, they take the lead, so it’s important to place your bid at the very maximum you’re willing to go if you don’t intend to check back in before the auction concludes. Our software does not allow us to see maximum bids, ensuring that we remain an impartial and a neutral representative for all bidders.

As with all of our high-quality auctions, we at MHCC wish all potential bidders the very best. We’ll be here, fighting off the lack of sleep to answer questions and take bids over the phone until the auction’s conclusion. Thank you for your participation, and good luck!

1963 Topps Baseball Complete Master Set Completely PSA Graded #8 on PSA Set Registry with 8.14 GPA

Babe Ruth – Super Villain?

In the late 1990s, there was a pretty cool TV show called “Sliders” in which a group of scientists discovered a way to travel to parallel universes. Each time they would “slide” to an alternate Earth, they’d arrive at the same date and time but in a completely unknown environment as history had unfolded differently. Perhaps the “Earth” they landed on was dominated by the British, who had won the Revolutionary War, or visited a disease-riddled planet combating a worldwide plague, with antibiotics never having been invented. The moral of the show is that some decisions, no matter how benign they may seem at the time, can have repercussions that seriously change the course of history as we know it. We’ve all played this hypothetical “What If?” game at one time or another. For example, what if Babe Ruth, America’s greatest baseball hero, was remembered as just another great player, or even worse, a villain? This seemingly wild scenario is not as far-fetched as you might imagine, because it almost happened … more than once!

The “Banned-bino!”

A theatrical agent, producer and director, Harry Frazee took a credit line in 1916 from owner Joseph Lannin to purchase the Red Sox for $500,000. By 1919, needing financing for his theatrical production “No, No, Nanette” as well as funds to pay off the note from Lannin, Frazee was forced to part with his most valuable asset, Babe Ruth. Offering an all-cash deal of $100,000, Babe Ruth was sold to the New York Yankees.

ruthblacksoxHowever, Frazee had another option; the Chicago White Sox offered star outfielder Joe Jackson and $60,000 cash for Ruth’s services; rejected in favor of the larger cash deal. Had the White Sox offer been successful, Joe Jackson would have patrolled the outfield in Boston and Babe Ruth would have played in Chicago. Well, for a short while anyway. With rumors of a conspiracy to fix the 1919 World Series continuing through the 1920 season, a grand jury was convened to investigate. While cleared of all legal charges, Jackson’s reign in the Boston outfield would have abruptly ended when Commissioner Landis issued a lifetime ban of Jackson and the other alleged co-conspirators. Ruth would have found himself toiling in relative obscurity, leader of an organization gutted by scandal that would finish no higher than 5th in the American League for the remainder of Ruth’s career. Instead of being the saving grace to restore baseball’s integrity, he would wear the cap of the team that destroyed it. There would be no “house that Ruth built” and no New York Yankees dynasty. “The Babe” likely would have been just another name among the greats, and the sport of baseball would have followed a very different path.

Married to the Mob

This scenario also takes place in Chicago, 1931. Prohibition was in full swing and the Windy City had descended into virtual lawlessness, with organized crime syndicates running gambling halls and overseeing the illegal distribution of alcohol to every restaurant and night club in the city. Law enforcement willingly, or sometimes unwillingly, accepting a fee to “look the other way” and crime bosses paid off politicians to grant “special favors.” Of the many crime families that ruled Chicago, none matched the nearly unlimited power of reputed crime boss Alphonse Capone. An avid baseball fan, Capone was often seen in the front row at White Sox and Cubs games. Meanwhile, 36-year old Babe Ruth was winding down an unprecedented career in New York. While past his prime, Ruth was still the premier offensive juggernaut in baseball, having already secured six American League pennants and three World Series titles for the New York Yankees.

ruthcubs
Tired of watching the Chicago Cubs, a perennial powerhouse in years past, having gone Capone was indicted just months later and the plan of buying the Cubs never materialized. But if Capone was able to stay ahead of the Untouchables for another year or two, he may have realized his dream of being a “silent owner” and Babe Ruth would have ended his career in Chicago. But at that point, it likely would have been exposed that Hartnett was a front man for the Capone family, that Ruth and Hartnett conspired with Capone to secretly acquire the Cubs and the team would have been seized by the federal government as restitution for a conviction on charges of tax evasion.decades without a World Series title, Capone devised a plan where we would coerce Cubs owner Bill Wrigley into selling him the team and then buy Babe Ruth from the Yankees for $500,000, installing “The Bambino” as player/manager. According to Capone, he had already had discussions with Ruth on the idea and the Babe was on board, seeing the opportunity to realize his dream of becoming a manager that would never come about with the Yankees under owner Jack Ruppert. With the always vigilant Commissioner Landis calling the shots, there was no chance that such an unsavory character as “Scarface” would be approved to purchase the Cubs, so Capone set up an “under the table” deal in which Cubs star catcher Gabby Hartnett would be the legal owner on paper but Capone would provide the financing and pull the strings behind the scenes. According to Deirdre Marie Capone in her book,”Uncle Al Capone, The Untold Story From Inside His Family,’ when asked by his brother how he would persuade Wrigley to sell the Cubs, Al responded, “I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse.”

Commissioner Landis, never one to show tolerance for illicit behavior, may have permanently banned Hartnett and Ruth for their role in the conspiracy, leaving “the Bambino” in the same company as Pete Rose and Joe Jackson; baseball immortals on the outside of Cooperstown, looking in!

1965 Topps Football: Not Your Average Joe

For the first time since buying out Bowman in 1956 and taking control of the baseball card market, the Topps Chewing Gum Company found itself struggling to hold off a competitor. After facing a mild challenge from Fleer in the football card market from 1960-1963, the Philadelphia Gum Company entered the fray by securing exclusive rights to the National Football League (NFL), leaving the floundering American Football League (AFL) as Topps’ only alternative. Competing against the likes of Johnny Unitas, Jim Brown, Paul Hornung and Bart Starr, the once invincible Topps Company had ironically become the “Bowman” of the football card market. But Topps would stumble upon a weapon of their own, and Philadelphia Gum would learn a painful lesson that indeed the neon lights are bright …. on Broadway!

A Star is Born

In the first round of the 1965 NFL draft, #12 overall, the St. Louis Cardinals selected University of Alabama quarterback Joe Namath. On the same day, the AFL held their draft with the New York Jets selecting Namath #1 overall. With both teams making a pitch to secure his services, Namath shocked the football world by choosing the New York Jets, signing a contract for a record $437,000 and giving the American Football League its first true superstar. Namath’s magnetic personality and brash confidence were a perfect match for the New York stage and it wasn’t long before Namath was to Manhattan what Mickey Mantle was to the Bronx; a personality bigger than the game he represented. His flowing hair, his cocky attitude, and his aggressive style on the gridiron cast him in the role of antagonist to the NFL’s military crew-cut wearing Unitas. Namath became a symbol of the free-wheeling, offense first approach of the AFL, while Unitas was the face of the methodical, smash-mouth style of the NFL. As fate would have it, the two icons would meet in a showdown for a championship that would eventually unite the leagues and change the course of football forever!

Size Matters

Owning exclusive rights to the most anticipated rookie card since Jim Brown’s debut in 1958, Topps returned to the philosophy that eliminated Bowman in the baseball card market; bigger is better! With Namath slated at card #122 in the 176-card collection, the 1965 Topps set was enlarged to “tall-boy” status, each card in the set measuring approximately 2 1/2 x 4 11/16 inches. The larger pasteboards were given bright and colorful backdrops of various colors within a bone white frame, creating a collection as hubristic as the rookie quarterback who would soon become its centerpiece. Certainly no “one-trick pony,” the collection features rookie cards of Hall of Famers Willie Brown and Fred Belitnikoff as well as Canton inductees Buoniconti, Blanda, Bell, Buchanan, Dawson, Maynard, and Alworth. But Topps’ first gridiron attempt at such a magniloquent collection wasn’t without its faults; poor centering due to the unorthodox card size became the norm and print overspray from the wildly strong background colors was widespread. It’s also accepted that 132 of the 176 cards in the set, including Namath’s card, are short-printed though one could also argue that the other 44 cards are actually double-prints of a limited quantity collection. These problems, combined with the difficulty of keeping such odd-sized cards in pristine condition for almost 50 years, result in one of the most difficult post-war assemblages to build in high-grade of any sport.

1965 Topps Football Complete Set – #1 All Time Finest on PSA Set Registry


The featured set is the result of one of the most amazing achievements in sports card collecting. While ranked #1 Current and All-Time on the PSA Set Registry since 2008 with an astonishing 8.91 GPA, what’s even more impressive is that the highest possible set rating, requiring the very highest PSA grade for every card in the set, is at 8.937. Simply stated, there are only 7 cards in existence that can possibly improve this collection. Out of over 21,000 submissions to PSA, only 6 cards from the 1965 Topps set have ever graded PSA 10 GEM MINT and they’re all included in this set! The #2 ranked set sits nearly a half-point behind with a GPA of 8.42, not surprising since 37 of the cards (over 20% of the collection) are unique “one of one” specimens with none graded higher. This set is being presented two ways: in its entirety and each card offered individually, with the sale going to the higher total of the set versus the sum of the totals of the individual cards. Thus, interested parties have the opportunity to examine each card in the collection carefully, front and back, through our high resolution scans.

The ’52 Topps Set: An Old Tradition is New Again

From the very start of baseball images printed on cardboard in the mid 19th Century to today, collectors have chosen their favorites for various reasons. But if you were to survey the millions of enthusiasts across this great nation, you’d likely find that one set stands at the zenith of the baseball card collecting universe: the 1952 Topps collection.

With all due respect to the legendary 1909-1911 T206 and 1933 Goudey collections, each of which could also take years, or decades, or even a lifetime to complete, the ’52 Topps set holds a singular distinction to advanced collectors, many of which have lived long enough to see the diamond heroes contained within. While 1909-1933 saw the transition of baseball card distribution go from tobacco to bubble gum, it wasn’t until 1952 that the baseball card market became a driving force in American culture.

The Beginning of a Renaissance

Offering cards to sell bubble gum was not a new idea for Topps. In 1950, Topps attempted to increase sales by marketing their product in tandem with Hopalong Cassidy trading cards. Less than two years later, on a typical autumn eve in 1951, 28-year old World War II veteran Sy Berger sat down with Woody Gelman at the kitchen table of his Brooklyn apartment and devised a plan to challenge the Bowman Gum Company, the lone giant in the baseball card market since 1948, by designing what would become the standard-bearer for an entire industry. Rejecting the traditions and conventional wisdom set forth by Bowman, Berger’s 1952 Topps set would provide a dramatic alternative. By offering super-sized 2-5/8″ by 3-3/4″ pasteboards which included the player’s name, colorized photo, facsimile autograph, and color team logo on the front with the player’s height, weight, batting and throwing orientation, birthplace, birthday, career stats, and a short biography on the back, Berger and Gelman introduced innovations to the generations-old concept of baseball trading cards that are still employed today.

The New Kid on the Diamond

1952 Topps #1 Andy Pafko Black Back PSA 8 NM/MT

Entering a new phase of the company’s evolution, Topps’ marketing strategy was to emphasize that their product offered greater size compared to the competition, packaging and selling the cards in a bright green and red wrapper as “five giant size picture cards” with a stick of bubble gum. Sprawling displays that touted the new Topps trading cards infiltrated nearly every Woolworths and “five & dime shop” in the nation, with seemingly endless stacks of wax packs, boxes, and even cases available for purchase. With Brooklyn Dodger Andy Pafko as the premier card of the inaugural set, the 80-card first series wasn’t without its growing pains. Existing in both black-back and red-back variations, it’s apparent that the red-back cards consistently offer superior picture quality, leading to speculation that Topps was not happy with their first attempt and resolved to make improvements by increasing the quality while changing the reverse color to red as a sort of “clean slate” approach. The Johnny Sain and Joe Page “wrong back” errors (#48 and #49) exist only in black-back form as they were corrected before the switch to red;  only the correct version exists on the red-back variety. All cards after the first series are in red-back form only. High grade specimens of the black-back cards are almost always scarcer then their corresponding red-backs, suggesting that the switch from black to red happened fairly early in the process and considerably fewer black-backs made it into circulation.

High-numbers: The Set Builder’s “White Whale”

1952 Topps #311 Mickey Mantle PSA 7 NMInitial sales were encouraging enough for Topps to begin planning a 1953 edition and the company felt confident that withholding baseball icons Mickey Mantle, Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella and Eddie Mathews until the final series would offset any drop in demand due to the upcoming football season. But that series (#311-407) was delayed and barely made it out of production by September. To make matters worse, many stores that successfully sold the product all season chose not to order the final series so late in the year and collectors were either unable to locate the cards or were simply unaware that the cards even existed. Not even an appearance by the “Commerce Comet” could turn the tide and sales plummeted. With cases of unsold product stranded in the Topps warehouse for years, Sy Berger decided in 1960 to load up a tugboat with approximately 300 to 500 cases of 1952 final series product and dispose of it New York Harbor, sending them to a watery grave somewhere off the coast of northern New Jersey. For this obvious reason, the famous Mickey Mantle card #311 and all other final series issues are unusually scarce, especially in presentable condition.

1952 Topps Master Set #3 Current Finest on PSA Set Registry – The Finest Master Set Ever Offered

1952 Topps #312 Jackie Robinson PSA 8 NM/MTAs a Master Set, ranked #3 on the PSA Set Registry, the collection includes all 407 cards in the series with the 80 additional 1st series cards in “black-back” form, the celebrated Joe Page and Johnny Sain “wrong bio” reverses (#48 and 49) and the newly discovered and scarce Frank Campos “black star” variation (#307 graded PSA 5), bringing the total collection to 490 cards. The cornerstones of the set are naturally the Mickey Mantle card #311, a fresh and vibrant PSA 7 with an above-grade perimeter and incredible image quality to offset the typical centering variance, a phenomenal PSA 7.5 specimen of Eddie Mathews’ rookie card #407 and a breathtaking PSA 8 black-back version of Andy Pafko’s card #1, one of just 5 in existence with a lone specimen graded higher, along with a PSA 6 of the red back variety. Nine cards are graded PSA 9, headlined by card #2 James Runnels black-back (one of 2 with just one graded higher) and including #38 Westlake (pop 4, none higher), 71 Upton (pop 2, none higher), 108 Konstanty (pop 5, none higher), 207 Harris (pop 10, none higher), 210 Fowler (pop 7, none higher), 245 Robertson (pop 5, none higher), 292 Baker (pop 8, none higher), and 322 Jackson (pop 7, none higher). 1952 Topps #261 Willie Mays PSA 8 NM/MTOther extremely high-grade low pops include PSA 8.5 cards of #12 Basgall (pop 1, two higher), 131 Martin (pop 3 none higher), 246 Kell (pop 3, two higher) and 398 Rice (Pop 1, one higher) with incredibly sought-after PSA 8 rarities of #9 Hogue red-back, 11 Rizzuto black-back, 20 Loes red-back, 48 Page correct bio black-back, 49 Sain correct bio red-back, 162 Crandall, 165 Kazak, 175 B. Martin, 180 Maxwell, 261 Mays, 312 J. Robinson, 316 Williams, 320 Rutherford, 326 Shuba, 341 Jeffcoat, 373 Turner, 388 Chipman, and 403 Miller. Over 83% of the entire collection (9 PSA 9, 15 PSA 8.5, and 384 PSA 8) is graded PSA 8 or above. A link to the complete card by card breakdown of this set, including individual grades and populations, will be available through our website or by visiting the PSA Set Registry. This collection is being offered as a complete set as well as each card offered individually, with the final sale going to whichever total (the set versus the sum of the individual lots) is higher. This gives prospective bidders the opportunity to examine each and every card in the collection through the use of our high quality scans. We’ve been honored to offer some of the world’s finest 1952 Topps sets over the past few years, but this collection takes it to a whole new level of excellence!

Hello Hobby Enthusiasts

Welcome to the Mile High Card Company blog, the first of what will be a weekly installment though we will cut in with updates on occasion as warranted. We’ve been thinking about doing regular updates like this for a while and finally went ahead and got it started. The sports card and memorabilia industry is perpetually evolving, and as a major auction house, we’re privy to a wide cross-section of ever-changing trends and interests. With this in mind, we’d like to take this opportunity to utilize our position within the hobby and provide our consignors and collectors with information to help keep you informed. We’ll discuss the production of upcoming auctions in real time by spotlighting exciting new items soon to be featured as well as pointing out various aspects of the auction process, including rules and strategies for success from both the consignor and bidder standpoint. We’ll delve into different cards, sets, collectibles and aspects of collecting, talk about what’s hot and why, and address many of the concerns and issues collectors have within the hobby.

To get things started, we’re happy to report that we’ve just finished the writing and proofreading for our Spring Auction, which opens for bidding on March 24th and closes April 10th. Brian is in the process of getting the layout for the catalog completed so that you’ll receive it before the auction commences. Two particular items that will provide plenty of spirited bidding are a 1952 Topps baseball master set that presently ranks #3 on the PSA Set Registry and the #1 ranked 1965 Topps football set. Each collection will be offered two ways: as a complete set and as individual cards, with the sale going to the higher total (the set as a whole vs. the aggregate total of the individual cards). The ’52 master set, besides the incredible specimens of Mantle (PSA 7), Pafko (PSA 8 black back), and Mathews (PSA 7.5), offers a wide array of difficult low-pop, low number black-backs and high-number series cards that are sure to shake up the PSA Set Registry rankings if sold individually.

The ’65 Topps football set might even be more impressive in that there are only six cards in existence that are capable of improving this set. The only six cards from the entire set ever graded PSA 10, out of over 21,000 submissions, are included, as is an incredible PSA 9 specimen of Joe Namath’s iconic rookie card.

Brian and Greg Rice will be taking consignments in Philadelphia this weekend, March 7-9, at the Valley Forge Casino Resort, King of Prussia. If you plan on attending, stop by the booth and let Brian know you saw this. Also, if you like really good BBQ, you’re gonna want to stop by Bridgeport Rib House, about 4 miles away from the show. It’s not much to look at from the outside (or even the inside for that matter) but man, do they know how to cook up some amazing barbeque! Trust me, if you’ve never been there, you’ll be blown away!

Well that’s it for now, but we’ll be getting back to you soon. Don’t forget to subscribe to us, we’re gonna be bringing you some really interesting stuff from the sports collectibles scene. Join us on Facebook and Twitter as well!